So life has been at it again and I have been thrown into the midst of it. I guess that is obvious as we are all in the midst of life and cannot be thrown back into it. Perhaps a better observation would be I have had my attention forcibly directed in another direction. Hobbies or passions I love to lose myself in have been placed on the back burner so to speak and so some of the calming and healing aspects of those activities have been denied me. I have some other topics I wanted to touch on here but will have to wait until later.
I wrote in an earlier post of my father passing away last October. He was a strong supporter and advocate in urging me forward in my career in the photographic arts. He always took a keen interest in what I was doing and how I was progressing with shows or new work. I have missed our chats and the feeling of loss has been compounded with the loss of his mother/my grandmother this past week. She lived to be 104 years old, just missing her 105th birthday. The loss of both of these fine people has been more difficult than I imagined. I have seen my fair share of death with my time in Astan and Iraq, as well as a police officer tasked with crime scene investigations. It is different when it is a loved one who is close to you who dies. My daughter who is a nurse said the same thing as she spent time caring for my father just before he passed away. She said it was more difficult to see my father slipping away than it was her patients. Again the personal ties and emotional links are what have made the losses so relevant.
So why am I writing about this? As I was sitting viewing some prints I noted how I had been avoiding the one place that has given me solace over the years when life and its stresses became stifling and unbearable. I would immerse myself in my art work in the darkroom. It is a quiet place. No one can disturb you if you are “blacked-out.” I have a sign on my bathroom door (my bathroom has been converted into a darkroom) which reads, “DARK ROOM, Keep The Door Closed, If It Is Left Open All Of The Dark Will Leak Out.”
For me the darkroom is the one place I have control over the process of creating art and freedom, even a respite from the pressures of life. In the darkroom it is you and your art: nothing else. Time stands still in the darkroom. Except for the ticking to the timer recording the exposure of the print on the enlarger or the processing of the film or prints in the chemicals, time becomes irrelevant. Like the child at play, who is surprised by mom’s sudden call to dinner, the clock and its merciless slide forward are forgotten in the absolute passion of creating art. There is no clock relentlessly counting off the seconds, reminding me of the time or rush me on towards the next dull appointment, as if it was some unmerciless master to submit myself too over and over again with no respite
The darkroom is my escape from the world. It is more than a sanctuary, it is a refuge, a place of solace, of calm, of peace, a place to recharge spiritual batteries or uplift the soul. The work in the dark or near dark is a balm to frayed nerves and eyes burned from the bright burning desert light of life. Activities are done at a controlled pace and with an economy of motion that yields the visual images from the inner soul. There is no rushing, no forcing of processes to yield the art, as these artificial devices only yield the unfeeling images of false content.
Light photons embracing a thin layer of silver salts infused in gelatin are born through the arcane and miraculous soup of chemicals, giving life to the artists’ visual interpretation of their world. The smell of the chemicals, the feel of the film in the trays as they are moved through the birth cycle to give them the proper development, bring a tactile sense of balance. The same for the prints, the image slowly making its way to visible fruition, conceived in the light, born in the darkness and revealed in the fluids of chemicals that complete its growth and birth.
All of these sensations bring my soul and spirit respite and calm like no other pastime. Not the physicality of the martial arts or the focusing of meditation. In many ways it is my inner sanctum, the holy of holies, the sweat lodge, or temple, where reason, sanity, and inner peace are restored or even born. On oh so many occasions I have been treated to sudden insights on the direction of my art, inspiration for other projects or subject matter to explore, resolution to personal problems or challenges. Or just plain peace. Nothing fancy nothing revolutionary, just contented peace with myself and life.